Eight per cent of the country is Asian—but Asian players make up only a tiny fraction of professional footballers. Twenty years after the FA first flagged the problem, why has so little changed?by Jason Murugesu / April 23, 2019 / Leave a comment
It’s a topic that’s been written about every so often for the last twenty years: why aren’t there more British Asians footballers? The answer to that question is not a mystery. In fact, it is very straightforward. And all those who can affect change are aware of how it can be fixed.
Eight per cent of the country is Asian, and yet there are only 12 professional players who are Asian. There are just over 3,700 professional players in the UK. In other words, 0.3 per cent of British footballers are Asian.
The lack of British Asian footballers is ultimately not due to cultural differences (Asian parents not wanting their children to pursue professional sports), nor that British Asians are not interested in football (have you walked through a park recently?)
The reason is unconscious bias and prejudice on a massive scale. In other words: systematic racism.
While racism in English football is not comparable to the heady days of banana skins and extreme hooliganism, discrimination continues to thrive in the game in the subtlest and most-easily overlooked of ways. As the rapper Kanye West once said, “racism’s still alive, they just be concealing it.”
Last summer, Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling brought this matter to light when he took to Instagram to take a stand against the British press on the racist coverage of his personal life and that of other young black players. Sterling highlighted that footballers of colour are written about differently to white footballers, noting that identical actions by two players—buying their mothers large houses with their earnings—had been covered differently. “The young black kid is looked at in a bad light,” he wrote.
View this post on Instagram
Good morning I just want to say , I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to heard I will speak up. Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better. For example you have two young players starting out there careers both play for the same team, both have done the right thing. Which is buy a new house for there mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look how the news papers get there message across for the young black player and then for the young white payer. I think this in unacceptable both innocent have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour, so for all the news papers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all i have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity an give all players an equal chance.
Sterling’s challenge of the media made front page news and started a conversation. But racism exists in other ways too. Last November, West Ham under-18s coach Mark Phillips was suspended for his support of the Football Lads Alliance, which calls itself an “anti-extremist movement” but which, according to a Premier League warning sent to clubs, “is using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim agenda.” (The group is supported by none other than Tommy Robinson.)
Last week, the Metro reported that Sporting Bengal—a grassroots Asian team from East London—walked off the pitch after accusing the…